Day 46. An offwhite Tangail with a sea green border and brown spots here and there. Not, butis (butas if you will) but marks. Here, there and everywhere her fingers had touched the sari. Her fingers with their tips browned, her lips reddened by khoyer (kattha). Paan was her constant companion. Shredding betel nuts (supari) with her jaanti (nutcracker) like her pastime. Paan (betel leaf) with supari, a dash of khoyer, a spot of chun (lime) and a generous smattering of zarda.
My grandmother, father’s mother.
I always saw her wear white or cream saris, no butis. Only a border. She liked wide, rich borders. But no red, no orange, no rust. Her wardrobe was packed with saris. Mostly cottons, a few silks. And bags, and watch, and glasses and slippers. Yes, slippers. “Ogulo to bhalo juto, baire rakhle kharap hoy jabe (those are good shoes, to be worn on special occasions, they will get spoilt outside)” was her explanation. But that didn’t stop us from teasing her.
I was her special granddaughter, she had a soft corner for me, sometimes unfairly so and I would even point that out to her. But some things you can’t change, so you learn to accept them, appreciate them even, for what they are worth. So, I shared a special bond with her. I was probably the one who got to share the most time with her, sometimes grudgingly so. I had what you can call a love-hate relationship with her. I argued with her, got annoyed, irritated, furious while she pestered me to call her everyday, go and meet her every holiday (when she was not staying with us), spend every waking moment with her while she was. So I fought with her often. But she was unputdownable.
The morning of my wedding when my aunts woke up to feed a grumpy me at the crack of dawn, there she was lying on her bed singing some obscure wedding song when only a few hours earlier she had been unable to speak, sleeping from the injection the doctor had given her. That was her. She went to the wedding and cried when she blessed me, and got angry when my aunt (her daughter) forbade her to eat anything at the wedding feast. But she couldn’t make it to my reception. I missed her. She made it up by inviting me, my husband and in-laws for lunch soon after. She couldn’t cook any longer, but got my aunt to make an elaborate spread.
The rest is a kind of blur. A call at office, she had fallen down, rushing to the nursing home, relief on seeing her smiling face, hospital visits before office, back at home, another call, another fall. I could have done anything to make her speak again. But she just looked, and sometimes (I thought) smiled. I kept going back to her again and again, and telling her “see I have come again, without you pleading”. Another call… I remember it was my off day and I had been watching a movie on TV after dinner, a movie I had been waiting to watch is all I can remember. For the life of me, I can’t remember what movie it was. It’s been almost 13 years and I still can’t remember. That memory has been wiped clean from my mind.
She would have been 90 today. Happy Birthday to her.

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